Pako Lesejane redefining photography
By Dave Baaitse
Pako Lesejane abandoned his childhood dream of becoming a pilot; rather opting to live behind the lens, taking landscape pictures with the hope of capturing emotions of many―this is a choice he stands proud of to this day.
This past week, Lesejane staged his first solo exhibition themed “Photography Redefined” at Thapong Visual Arts Centre in Gaborone. The exhibition featured 20 of his photographs that he collected over the years with some having been photographed over a decade ago. But there is a twist, of course. Lesejane says he has prepared the 20 photographs using different techniques such as 3D hand photomontage, lift and transfer using wax paper and hand sanitizer, hand painting and glass overlay on both digital photographs and film photographs.
“I have been on several occasions asked what fine art photography is and why I took this road less travelled,” he says. According to him Fine Art Photography has grown over the years even though for many it is a headache because you don’t get the results immediately after the long process of just working on a single piece. “Sometimes one even tries using different chemicals like hand sanitizer instead of water like on a photograph titled ‘Baobab Leathery Feel’ which you will see tonight in the gallery.”
Lesejane says many photographers have taken a different route of portraiture; wedding photography, documentary and fashion as these genres are quick on cash as they need the money to get through the day as compared to what he does. The term “Fine Art Photography” actually has no universal agreed meaning or definition. The idea behind the genre underlies in the criteria that distinguishes fine art photography from other fields of photography, which are more about the recording of a subject or scene as it appears. A fine art photograph is distinguished by not recording a scene or subject exactly as it exists in realistic rendition.
Lesejane says his aim is towards producing a more personal, evocative impression. “Like in my works of fine art photography, I have photographed a subject, printed the photograph and after that using acrylic paint, water colour paint, sugar overlays and chemicals like turpentine, thinners and at some point even burning or tearing some parts of the photograph in accordance with my creative vision. So it is more about what the photographer sees than what the camera sees. A camera is basically one more tool to help create a work of art to help reveal the vision of the artist.”
On some landscapes Lesejane has used a Neutral Density Filter to slow down the exposure as well as to control highlights and direct the light in what he wanted viewers to see when they first look at the art piece. Influential American photographer, Edward Weston who lived from 1886- 1958 once said, “To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk.” According to Lesejane this is one more reason why he decided to go off the beaten track with photography.
“I hope you will find these techniques and skills used very interesting and as part of the new art in the world of photography here in Botswana.”
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Lesbian women speak out
In 2021, the Court of Appeal ruled against criminalization of same-sex relationships in Botswana. The court’s decision to uphold this ruling was based on arguments that criminalizing homosexuality was unconstitutional.
The bench of five judges unanimously ruled that this was a violation of rights of LGBTIQ+ individuals to dignity, liberty, privacy and equality. However, it has emerged that ending violence against homosexuals, in particular, lesbian women, is far from over.
Lesbian women in Botswana are still subjected to all forms of abuse, violence and discrimination. They are sexually molested, raped, emotionally abused, harassed and constantly reminded that they are still “women” even if they can act like men.
These women endure violence from those that are close to them, be it family, schoolmates, workmates and the general public even. This was revealed this week in Gaborone at the commemoration of an International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBT) 2023.
The commemoration was held under the theme “Together always: united in diversity,” and it was organized by Success Capital in collaboration with European Union, SADC and UNAIDS. IDAHOBT 2023 was organized to show solidarity and join forces in the journey towards a meaningful, equitable, healthy and gender-just-Botswana.
Agreeing to speak to this publication on anonymity, a 20-year-old lesbian woman from Thamaga said she is a member of the LGBTIQ+ community and still in closet (her sexual orientation is unknown), but has suffered violence nonetheless.
“Homosexuals in Botswana are discriminated of their identity. We also face rejection daily in which we are excluded from interacting with other people. Their parents still think our identity is contagious and that it can be used to manipulate their children. This is something that I endured growing up.”
When quizzed on how her parents will react should she go public about her gender identity, the source said as for the mother, she would react positively. She has since opened up to her sister about her sexual orientation.
“My mother is a nice person generally. She won’t react in a way that will disappoint me but she will have to accept how I am because, technically, there is nothing she can do about it.”
Another lesbian woman, who identifies as Teddy, said she grew up in a setting full of male persons, something that led to her adopting male tendencies. She would dress like a boy, something that she felt comfortable doing.
“My mother has always known about this issue. My relatives gave me a hard time though. I realized that I am lesbian from a young age even though I didn’t understand why I was like that. I will jokingly dismiss a boy who would want to date me, referring to them as a brother.”
Teddy underlined that the community she grew up in did not tolerate her sexual orientation. “They will call me setabane and this is something that has lived in us. At church, I was forced to wear dresses or skirts, but I couldn’t.”
A lesbian woman who preferred being anonymous said at some point being a lesbian affected her mental health, as she couldn’t handle the pressure that came with it. She has since opened up to her parents about her sexual identity.
Meanwhile, when quizzed to speak on LGBTIQ+ rights in Botswana, High Commissioner and UK Special Representative to SADC Sian Price said there is a lot to be hopeful and positive about, adding that Botswana has an advantage of an active society that has respect for human rights.
“There are active support groups and respect of the rule of law, which made it possible for the country to be where it is now. This should make it possible for Botswana to go further. So, I am optimistic but I also think that there is need for all to have a greater ambition because there is so much more that could be done to promote LGBTIQ+ rights on Botswana. We also need to work together and advance those ends.”
In a statement, European Union (EU) says it is unacceptable that human rights continue to be violated and abused on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity.
The EU has called on all 67 state jurisdictions worldwide that still criminalize homosexuality, 11 of which impose the death penalty for consensual same-sex relationships, to immediately end this ‘discriminatory practice.”
“We are committed to working with all our partners to counter laws, policies and practices that discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity and tom eliminate all forms of violence.”
Author explains two award winning books
Just two weeks ago, the inaugural Botswana Literature Awards put on the spotlight the country’s top authors, celebrating and recognizing the contribution and hard work these book worms put on paper. These are individuals dedicated to improve literature landscape in Botswana.
Amongst the winners was Cole Motlogelwa, a Motswapong tribesman from Ratholo, who has published two award winning books: The English Man is Gone and The Cabal, which were published in 2019 and 2021 respectively.
Motlogelwa is a product of his environment. The toils, curiosities, trials and tribulations, accomplishments and hopes of his people are his source of inspiration to write. He says he uses writing to interpret and attempt to express all of these experiences he consumes from his surroundings. Writing for him is a tool for change, a voice that cracks the hollowness and mystery of the night.
When speaking in an interview this week, Motlogelwa said his first literature award was the AfriCAN Author award in 2020, where he was honored for his first book.
“The second one was an award I got from the Inaugural Botswana Literature Awards 2022/23. The Cabal was judged to be the Best English Novel in Botswana at the said awards.”
He stressed that a great writer is not so much an excellent command of the language of the book, but about whether one is willing to cut the piece of them and share it with the readers.
“Simply put, characters are just fictitious and devoid of form, until we breath life into them by projecting our emotions into them. We give them emotions that we understand. We give them scare we have. We clothe them with smiles we know we have. We can’t give them what we don’t possess. So, a good writer I sone who is willing and able to effectively express themselves through their characters.”
When shedding more light on his two award winning books, Motlogelwa said The Cabal (2021) is 221 pages futuristic political thrilling satire set in Botswana.
It follows a journey of Detective Moathodi on his quest to find the killer of the Permanent Secretary to the President of Botswana in the year 2029. His investigations were not warmly welcomed by the Gaborone North police department and the Apex Intelligence Unit.
His investigations together with the Vice President, Advocate Tholo, will lead to a dangerous web of deceit that exposes the unimaginable games, tricks and schemes in every political circle that continues to keep the innocent citizens in the dark about the monopoly that takes place behind closed doors at their expense.
“In this book, I went deep into the history of Botswana and I open the mind of the reader to the surrounding possibilities, as well as educate both readers with legal background and those who don’t with rich history that perhaps have many uncertain loopholes.”
The book also shows the length at which politicians would go to achieve political ambitions and the network of holy and unholy players in the game.
In summary, The Cabal is a magnetic and captivating story of political ideologies, games, endless and ugly gap between the have’s and the have not’s kidnapping and passion for change.
The English Man is Gone (2019) is a radical expose on the after-effect of colonization of Botswana. The book describes the author’s post colonization ‘utopia’ and delves deep into “our continued attachment to the western powerhouses. It screams change, and is solution-based wake-up call to the people of Botswana.
This is a book that was written for the youth and future of Botswana in mind by the author. Its six chapters provide in-depth opinion and understanding of the author on critical issues of colonialism, existing government practices from time immemorial couched in sophisticated language, the Constitution of Botswana, discriminatory practices amongst the people of Botswana, foreign policy and the economy of the country.
However, though he is a multi-award-winning author, he has a fair share of challenges. As authors in Botswana, Motlogelwa stressed that they lack accessible and sustainable literature development initiatives, saying “and books are still subject to imposition of tax. This is quite concerning because we are trying to build a knowledge-based economy.
“There is no domestic literature market protection, and local authors are forced to compete against influx of foreign materials. Even in pursuit of market liberalization, sight should not be lost that we need protection because our literature market is infant. We need community libraries that can buy and deal with our books.”
“Otherwise, publishing is an expensive process and many of us have financial challenges, so that goes without saying.”
Local music earns a spot on Mzansi’s Channel O
In its quest to empower the local creative industry, MultiChoice Botswana is once again cooking something for local music producers and artists. For so many years now, creative minds in Botswana have been struggling to promote their talent as there are no platforms to help in that context.
Without doubt, Botswana has many talented entertainment industry players. They are artists, music producers, actors, storytellers and fashion industry players. With more emphasis on the music industry, there are no significant platforms to come to their rescue.
The available platforms are not enough to export talent. In worst scenarios, the platforms do not offer monetary incentives, so they become less beneficial to artists. On lucky days, artists are engaged and paid monies to at least keep them alive for a minute.
In discovering these dares, MultiChoice Botswana says it has come to artist’s rescue, providing a brand-new music video countdown show featuring homegrown Botswana music videos.
When shedding more light on the new offering, MultiChoice Botswana Corporate Affairs Manager, Thembile Legwaila said the call-for-submission, launched this week, will run for a duration of ten weeks, with qualifying videos being part of Channel O’s newest music show, aptly titled Bots Top 5.
“With this being a fresh new music video countdown show celebrating local artists and their works, we want to ensure that the music videos airing on the show are fully representative of the talent available in Botswana. We have made the submission process as simple and as transparent as possible with the hopes that this will also unearth the undiscovered musical gems we have in our country,” she said.
With Channel O being available across all MultiChoice Africa markets, Legwaila said African exposure to local talent is a given with the new music video countdown show launching on 24th May 2023.
“Each week, the locally produced music video entertainment show will see its host introducing viewers to five of Botswana’s hottest music videos. The show will also feature interviews with artists behind the videos, everyday Batswana sharing their thoughts on the local creative industry and many different small business and landmarks of Botswana to intrigue and entice viewers.”
When expanding more on the show, Legwaila said Bots Top 5 is an incredibly exciting addition of content to the already booming content on DStv. MultiChoice Botswana Managing Director, Stephanie Pillay, said “More specifically because it speaks to our local content strategy and our screens. We are looking forward to the rest of Africa knowing what we already know, and that is that Botswana’s local creative industry may be still growing but it is definitely full of endless potential.”
When queried to share his option on this development, the country’s most celebrated artist, Han C, said this is a great opportunity that the creative industry has been waiting eagerly for. Han C says he has music already playing on Channel O.
“Most of our artists in Botswana do not have platforms to showcase their talent. I must applaud MultiChoice Botswana for finally providing light at the end of the tunnel. My fellow colleagues now have where to deposit their talent. This means more exposure for Botswana music and I content.”
For his part, award winning music producer, Fella, said this is a great development as it ensures ease of submission “so that everyone has a fair chance to get their visuals played because a lot of local artists did not have much easier and simple way to submit videos on the platform.”
He said this however, means upping standards and quality for “our music visuals taking them more serious than ever before. Channel O is a big, inter regional platform that for sure ensures quality control and values quality content,” Fella said in a quick interview.
Nonetheless, he expressed worry, questioning the length that the new project will take. “My only issue is how many times we would see this happening. My wish is to see this happen every month if indeed it is intended for locals.”